Ode to a fussy child.
I have learnt that “fussy” is not a bad word. That having a “fussy” child does not mean that said child isn’t a happy child. I’ve also learnt that the word “fussy” tends to be used to describe a child who doesn’t sleep through the night after 2 months, who won’t learn to self soothe around the same time, who needs to be held constantly and who gets frustrated and cries when they aren’t fully comfortable.
Nowadays, at 5 months, I can leave Luna to play on her floor mat for 15-30 minutes, and she will play quite happily, as long as I am sitting nearby and she knows that I am not just leaving her there (if I go to the loo or to the kitchen she usually realizes it and makes it heard). I can now put her in her bouncy chair in the bathroom and have a shower (long gone are those days when I would get her to sleep, put the shower on, start getting undressed and hear her crying, or those days when I would wake up after one hour of sleep to shower before Cesar went to work). But these moments won’t last longer than 30 minutes, as she starts to miss being in my arms, or she just gets frustrated with something on her mat and needs a cuddle.
Back when she was a newborn it was easy to distinguish between her needs and her reasons for crying: hungry, tired, dirty diaper, gassy tummy. Once we hit the 3 month mark there were times that she would get grumpy just because she was bored or wanted to be held. I’ve heard too many people mention that you shouldn’t pick up a baby every time that you hear them cry as it will spoil them. That’s not the way that we work in this household. If Luna cries, she gets picked up. Even if it is sometimes annoying and I am dying to pee or to finish writing something I started 10 days ago. This is when those perfect things like slings, carriers, wraps come into play. Without them we wouldn’t get anything done. First off, I can’t bear to hear her cry, because crying means some kind of discomfort and I don’t want my child to feel any discomfort. Secondly, by picking her up I think we are showing her that she is always going to be secure with us, and can always ask us for anything. That is so much more important than worrying about possibly “spoiling” our child (which I don’t agree can happen anyway). And… There really isn’t anything that can make you happier than knowing that your child feels happy, secure and loved in your arms.
One day in the very near future she will decide that she doesn’t always need my help and my cuddles. She will want to play by herself and with her friends, choose her own clothes and go to the loo by herself. I want to take every single advantage of this time when she wants to be held 24/7. I know I will be a little happy-sad when she gains more independence, so I am going to cuddle and hold her as much as I can right now. Everything else (cooking, cleaning, writing, showering etc) just goes on a backburner in these moments. For example yesterday I was trying to help her take a nap and she was screaming from being overtired and refusing to sleep (one of our ongoing issues), when she finally relaxed and fell asleep in my arms I didn’t want to take her to her bed and risk waking her. So I stayed on the couch for 90 minutes while she slept peacefully and read some of a book on my phone. And those 90 minutes of sleep were so important because they set the tone for the rest of the day and night (yes, sleep does beget sleep somehow). All that to say that she is not spoilt, just cared for in the way that she wants to be cared for. And if she needs to sleep with us until she is one then so be it.
I actually dislike the phrase “fussy child”. I would rather use the word “sensitive”. I think that some children are just more sensitive to change than other children, and it affects them in different ways (I read a really good article about that this week written by Pinky McKay, The Myth of Baby Sleep Regressions). I know for a fact that when Luna is trying to learn something new she wakes up all through the night. Once she is comfortable with the new “trick” (finding her arms, rolling, finding her feet, babbling etc), she will go to sleep easily and rest properly. I started tracking her sleep tendencies and she will usually have one good day and night and 3 terrible nights. By terrible I mean that she will wake up on the hour, and if I make any sign that I am awake (apart from nursing her) she will think it’s play time and refuse to go back to sleep. She has started making up her own babbling words and sings them all day long “lalalamamamagagagadadadalalal”. Last night she woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over, looked up at me and said “mamamamgaga”, and then went back to sleep again. As we need to save for the new bed, we recently transformed the crib into a type of cosleeper, meaning that she can roll over to be closer to me, but still be sleeping in her bed. If she had been in her crib on the other side of the room last night she would have started crying as she needed me. But instead, she went back to sleep because my presence close by reassured her. And that is honestly the most important thing for us all right now – sleep. Because sleep means healthy baby and healthy parents.
Babies are all born as different people and not all the same and I feel like we should be in tune to their sensitivities and not make them follow our routines. This is, of course, my own personal opinion. Some babies are “easy” and “calm”, others cry constantly, and others are “needy” or “fussy”. Instead of trying to make a child conform to what we think should be right I am completely convinced that we should bend our own rules or preferences or conveniences so they work with our child’s. I really really doubt that our children are going to become spoilt brats because we rocked/nursed them to sleep or picked them up every time they cried for the first year of their lives. I suppose you can come back in a few years and ask me if I was wrong ;). I believe that every time a child cries it is for a very specific reason and not to be “annoying”.
I used to be one of those people who hated making plans and then cancelling on them, but nowadays I have been cancelling more often than I feel comfortable with. But I came to terms with the fact that I have a sensitive baby and sometimes it’s hard to go places when I am tired and when I don’t know if she will be comfortable. She really, really dislikes the heat and especially having the sun in her eyes, so at least it’s a lot more pleasurable to go out and about in September. Luna is also really bothered by her teeth, and I cannot wait for those first teeth to come out so she can catch a break! That said, she doesn’t really cry very often, she gets grumpy and yells, but doesn’t really cry. Maybe because I just don’t let her. And if that’s a bad thing then I will just continue doing this “bad thing”. I’m pretty sure my mother did the same with me, and her mother with her.
And you know, we will do exactly the same thing over again if our next one is just as sensitive, because I completely believe in fully showing my love to my child. I really doubt that she will want her face covered in kisses by the time she is 5 years old, so I might as well do it now when she enjoys it. I guess I should just apologise to those we have cancelled on in the past 5 months. It’s just easier to stay at home sometimes. My fussy” child has already taught me so many new things about myself and the world.